How To: Volunteering and Living Abroad in Vietnam
My name is David Squires and I am from Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom. As part of my studies as a Master’s student at Aarhus University in Denmark, I will be volunteering with Children’s Hope in Action
(CHIA) for 5 months through the summer and autumn of 2016. I came to Vietnam in June this year and began working with CHIA shortly after. This is my first time living in Asia and a completely new experience for me!
CHIA is an NGO based in Hoi An in central Vietnam. The organisation was founded in 2006 by an Australian woman, Robyn Morley, to provide care and assistance for some of the most disadvantaged children and their families in the Quang Nam province of Vietnam. CHIA focus their efforts and resources in three key areas: health and medical assistance; disability services; and educational sponsorship.
During my time with CHIA, I try to contribute in any way that I can. I spend the majority of my time assisting with fundraising efforts; mainly writing grant application and project proposals for the organisation in order to help secure more funds and develop partnership with other organisations. However, there is always something that needs seeing to and I am always keen to get stuck into any task.
As well as working at CHIA, I live and work down the road in Da Nang City teaching English as a second language. Da Nang is the third largest city in Vietnam and is the commercial and educational hub of central Vietnam. While Da Nang cannot match the beauty and quaintness of Hoi An, it’s a fun city with lots of great attractions and plenty to do. I have a lovely morning commute to Hoi An along the beachfront and past the famous marble mountain on my motorbike. I had never driven before I came to Vietnam but faced the challenge of the lively roads, jumped on a bike and am so glad I did!
To work in a place like Hoi An is a real treat. Many tourists and travellers come from far and wide to visit this beautiful place. I am lucky enough to come to this amazing place on a weekly basis. Hoi An is a historic town which was once one of the major trading ports in South-East Asia. The town lost its status as a leading trade port in the 19th century as a result of silting up of the river mouth. This meant that Hoi An has remained largely unaffected by the tumultuous changes to Vietnam over the last two centuries. ‘In 1999, Hoi An’s ‘Old Town’ was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its unique blend of local and foreign cultures while Lonely Planet described the town as “a culinary mecca.”. I would encourage anyone who has the chance to visit this fantastic town (and, of course, drop in at CHIA while you’re here)!
Settling into a new workplace can be a difficult experience, never mind in a new country! But all the staff at CHIA have made me feel extremely welcome. From Monday to Friday, CHIA’s carers and physios provide excellent care for several children while the rest of us work upstairs in the office. The work CHIA’s carers do for the children here sets a fantastic example about how to approach your work.
One of the great things about working for a small organisation like CHIA is you can see how the whole organisation functions right in front of your eyes. You see donations come in as a result of the fantastic fundraising efforts of the staff here and then how it is used to run effective projects which really benefit children in the surrounding areas. It’s great to see how something as simple as the delivery of bicycle can make such a huge difference to someone’s life. For many children in Quang Nam it can be the difference between getting to school or not.
Another benefit of volunteering at CHIA is all the amazing people who come from all over the world to help CHIA achieve their mission. One example that sticks out for me was when a group of volunteers from Global Mobility USA came to visit us. In the space of one morning, Global Mobility fitted wheelchairs for three disabled children in the province before they rushed off to help others. This group of people had an amazing and valuable skill-set as well as wealth of experience and some very interesting anecdotes. It was great to be around these people and learn from them because of their enthusiasm and wealth of experience.
Attending home visits to children that CHIA support has also been an eye-opening experience for me. Close to Da Nang and Hoi An, with all their amenities, are villages filled with people living far more simple and less privileged lives. It is great to see the positive impact CHIA’s support has for these families and their children. I hope I can make a significant contribution to the great work CHIA does and support everyone else here in their efforts during my stay.
CHIA is a great place to volunteer, you will be made to feel extremely welcome while being given the space to take things in the direction you want as well as meeting so many great people. Vietnam is a fantastic country in which to live and work with its winning combination of delicious food, great weather and beautiful scenery.
If you like the sound of this amazing organisation and feel you have the skills to contribute to CHIA’s mission, then please take a look at their profile here. CHIA welcomes volunteers with a broad range of skills and usually asks for a minimum commitment of 3 months, though exceptions can be made.
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